I did harassment training for a client earlier this week and we spent a significant amount of time at the training discussing posts on social media. There were, of course, people who never use social media or strictly limit their Facebook friends to non-work people and then there were others who frequently use a variety of social media sites. The class was very active in the discussion about what was appropriate on social media.
Usually when I have these discussions at training sessions, the class is still stuck on the idea that they should get to say whatever they want on Facebook or Twitter because they did it in their free time after work. This time, the class was unanimous in the idea that co-workers should not be bashing each other on social media. I consider this progress made.
Where we spent a lot of time was discussing posts that were not harassing or threatening other employees but may be posts that show questionable judgment of the employee — drinking being the big question. The fact is that, for the most part, employers are free to discipline employees for off-work behavior if it reflects poorly on the employer. There are some states, like New York, that have laws prohibiting an employer from disciplining an employee for engaging in lawful “recreational activities.” However, this is not the usual case.
Employees should realize that their right to post exactly what they are thinking with no filter, might come with consequences. Just look at recent case in Louisiana where a lawyer was disbarred for her online activity. The lawyer, frustrated with two judges’ responses to her client’s allegations of child abuse, took to Twitter to encourage people to sign an online petition to force the judges to look at her evidence. Needless to say, the Disciplinary Board was not amused.
At my training session this week, employees wanted to know how the employer becomes aware of their posts. Employees often seem to forget just who are their “friends” on Facebook. I have, on more than one occasion, had a manager who was friends with the employee bring the post to the company’s attention. Often times, it is other co-workers who bring in the posts. Employees should also realize that in most states an employer faced with a complaint about a post can force the employee to show them their social media page, even if it was marked private.